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A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 18

How Do I Find the Will of God?

You will gain valuable insights from this lesson about how to discern the will of God. The lesson encourages you to prioritize cultivating a Christ-like heart and character as a fundamental aspect of God's will. It emphasizes living by moral principles outlined in scripture, seeking wisdom through counsel and considering your unique qualities, and inquiring of God when necessary. The lesson underscores that God's guidance is not always specific but often involves blessable options that align with your long-term happiness and godly desires. Ultimately, the lesson provides a practical and balanced approach to understanding and following God's will in various life decisions.

Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 18
Watching Now
How Do I Find the Will of God?

I. Introduction

A. The Challenge of Discovering God's Will

B. Historical Approaches to Finding God's Will

II. Biblical Perspective on God's Will

A. Cultivating a Christ-like Heart

1. The Primacy of Christ-likeness

2. The Role of Love and Faithfulness

3. Self-Examination and Prayer

B. Listening Carefully to God's Word

1. Scripture as a Guide

2. Scripture to Identify and Avoid Sin

C. Living and Acting Wisely

1. Seeking Wise Counsel

2. Evaluating Choices in Line with One's Identity

3. Considering All Possibilities

D. Inquiring of God

1. Seeking Divine Direction

2. Distinguishing God's Voice

3. Following Radical Commands When Given

E. Choosing from Blessable Options

1. Defining Blessable Options

2. Pursuing Deep and Long-Term Happiness

III. Practical Application

A. Overcoming Paralysis in Decision-Making

1. The Story of a Couple Facing a Difficult Decision

2. Embracing Blessable Options and Trusting God's Guidance

IV. Conclusion


Lessons
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  • In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
  • Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
  • This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
  • Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
  • Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
  • This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
  • In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
  • This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
  • This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
  • This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
  • This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
  • Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
  • This lesson offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its profound implications for our comprehension of God's role in the world.
  • The lesson touches upon various types of suffering, categorizing them into six different types: moral evil (e.g., rape), natural evil (e.g., cancer), persecution, sharing the suffering of another, punishment for sin, and suffering caused by the devil.
  • Learn to discern God's will by cultivating a Christ-like character, living by moral principles, seeking counsel, embracing uniqueness, and praying. It's about aligning with your long-term happiness and godly desires, offering a balanced approach to life decisions.
  • Explore Jesus' nature and incarnation. Learn how He balanced divine and human attributes, challenging traditional views. Reflect on His mission and ours, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bridging divinity and humanity.
  • This lesson delves into the incarnation of Jesus, explaining his dual nature as both God and man during his earthly mission, supported by Old Testament, Gospel, and epistle references. It acknowledges the complexity of his divinity and humanity, even after his ascension.
  • This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
  • Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
  • This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
  • Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
  • Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
  • This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
  • Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
  • This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
  • This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
  • In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
  • This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
  • In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
  • You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
  • From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
  • By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
  • In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
  • This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
  • Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
  • Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
  • This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
  • From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
  • This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
  • Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
  • Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.

Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
th104-18
How Do I Find the Will of God?
Lesson Transcript

One of the questions that's pastorally very real and I run across it constantly, it has to do with providence and such, is, "How do I find the will of God?" I mean, in all kinds of different things, I'm just working with a couple that have just discovered each other. He saw this woman at church and said, "Whoa, got that fun smile," and she was headed out to go somewhere. He literally ran, caught up with her, and said, "My name is," and handed her a piece of paper with his phone number, said, "I'd love to grab coffee with you." And they've done a couple of walks together, and so far it's going pretty well. Is this the man? Is this the woman? What's the will of God? Shall we get married or not? In my case, shall I ...

I mean, put it where it is. How do I find the will of God? It's a very real question, and what I was taught back in the day was God has a plan for your life, quote verses, and I need to find that plan. And typically Gideon, fleece, dry ground, wet fleece, "Hmm, okay, let's try this one more time. Fleece, wet ground, dry fleece." Okay, is that the way you find the will of God? Put out a fleece? And you look in Jesus' words, he said, "The one who does not obey will be thrown into outer darkness." Man, I better get this right or I'm in real trouble kind of thing.

And so the thing is, there's a perfect plan of God, and I need to find it or I'm going to be in real trouble. And that's paralyzing, because how do I know I've got the thing? So I put this together and a friend of mine, Garry Friesen, who wrote a book called Decision Making and the Will of God ... And I like a lot of what Garry says, but I don't like all of it. So we're good friends and we smile at each other and disagree with each other on a particular point. But when I think about the will of God and I look at it biblically, 80%, at least, of the will of God statements in scripture are, "Be like God, cultivate a Christ-like heart." This is the will of God for you is that you have that kind of a heart. And so most of it, when you think about the will of God, will it make me a more Christ-like person? And some things obviously will not.

A Christ-like person, if I look in, say, the second half of Ephesians, there's all kinds of stuff in there that says, "Don't hang on to your anger because if you do, you're giving Satan an opportunity to mess up your life and the life of the community." Right now, outrage is a virtue. If you're going to be a Christ-like person, I mean, you're saying, "How can you be like Jesus and not be outraged by what's happening?" Well, actually, that's not the will of Jesus. His will is a whole different thing. So, the first thing is to be Christ-like. It means love, be faithful to God in everything that I am. Be the most Christ-like person I can possibly be.

Exodus 34:6, 7, I'm tempted to ask the crowd here and you guys, what's the first thing that God says about Himself when He announces Himself? What's the first thing?

Compassion.

Compassion, okay. Look at your Bible. Go to Colossians 3:12. He's talking about us as people, and so here he says, talking about Colossians 3:12, "So as those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved," what's the first thing he says to put on?

Compassion.

Heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. Boy, those are not the virtues of the world. They're surely the burdens of Jesus. So, be the most Christ-like person I can possibly be, and pray that he will reveal to me what there is in my heart that keeps me from doing that. So one of my breath prayers is Psalm 139:23, 24, the last two verses of Psalm 139, "Lord, search me and know me. Look at my anxious thoughts. Show me if there be any wicked way in me. Lead me in the way everlasting." That's a constant prayer, "Show me the things in my life that keep me from following you faithfully." So, that's number one. Cultivate a Christ-like heart. Put everything toward that, and scripture defines what that person is. And sometimes I'm like that, sometimes I'm not, but let's work toward it. That's number one.

A second thing to do, and gosh, we got a lot of passages for this, but ... Well, look at Psalm 19, and it's a great Psalm. Psalm 19 begins with, "Creation declares the glory of God." But Psalm 19:7, Psalm 19:7 begins to talk about the law of Yahweh, God's covenant declaration, "The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making the wise as simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eye." And what it's saying here and in many other passages is, listen carefully to God's Word. Listen carefully to God's Word. So, this is on your handout. I've got some fill in the blanks here, so the second here is listen carefully to God's Word.

And what you want to do there is use scripture to rout the sinful stuff. Scripture will show you the way to go. That's the Christ-like heart. But scripture will also show you, that's sinful, don't do it. "But it feels so good." Yeah, but it's sinful. And so you go to scripture and it tells you the right, but even more so, what scripture does is rule out the sinful. So that's the second thing on the steps to God's will.

The third thing on the steps to God's will is to live and act wisely. So, you get the passages like Proverbs. All over Proverbs is, "Seek wise counsel." There's another piece that comes with this. Does it make sense? So we could do a lot of ... They're in your list here. I'll let you look them up rather than me look them up with you, just for the sake of time here.

A key one here, is this in line with who I am? Wisdom, I have certain gifts, talent, certain personality characteristics, does it make sense? My favorite example here is David. He set out to kill Goliath, and he goes to Saul, and Saul says, "Okay, if you're going to kill the guy, you need some armor. Here, I'll give you my armor." Great gift to David. What does David do? He puts it on and he said, "There ain't no way I'm going to fight with his armor and this sword." And he puts them away. How come? "It's not who I am. I'm a shepherd." He picks up his sling and five rocks and goes for the guy. There are a lot of things that, that's just not who I am.

We looked at some length at our elder meeting last night about a guy on our staff and we're trying to think what's the best place for him. And some said, "Well, let's do this," and some of the rest of us, and I was one of them, said, "That's just not who he is. You put him up on stage and have him doing stuff, he's just not a public speaker." "Yeah, but he could learn." "I don't know if he could, but he sure can't now. He just fumbles and bumbles everything, even if he's trying to read a script. Don't put him on stage. It's not the best place for him." So that's a key thing there.

And wisdom, have I really considered all the possibilities? And he saw her type thing and she's saying, "Wow, he's a pretty cool guy. If I don't go with him, I'll be alone the rest of my life." Well, those are not the only possibilities, him or nobody, but in the moment, it can sure seem that way. We've got to get some counsel to see other possibilities. So, live and act wisely, and that rules out the stupid things. So, scripture rules out the sinful. Wisdom rules out the stupid.

Now, so far, Garry and I are saying the same kinds of things. The fourth point is where Garry and I differ, because I think God continues to speak and give direction. So, what I'm going to do at this point is I'm going to specifically inquire of God, inquire of God and see if He has a direction. And I look at Acts 16. Paul is, "What do I do next? Shall I go up north?" "Nope." "Shall I go down south?" "Nope." "What should I do?" "Cross the sea and go to Philippi," the Macedonian jailer vision. I think God still has those kinds of things. There are times when we need to stop and ask God. I think we should do it all the time, but my thinking is, sometimes God says, "Do it this way." Sometimes God says, "I want you to do this particular action."

But be careful that it's God talking, because there are lots of other things that I think are God's voice. I need to test that. We'll talk about that when we get into Holy Spirit a little later in the course. But this is a place where Garry doesn't do that. He's a cessationist, and he doesn't believe that God speaks today in that kind of way. I do, so inquire of God. And at that point, does it make me Christ-like? Is it following the moral commands of scripture, ruling out the sinful? Is it wise, ruling out the stupid? Does God have an opinion?

Now, if He has an opinion, even if He tells you, "Go sacrifice your child," you go do it. Of course, I'm referring to Genesis 22. Do not sacrifice your children, by the way. But if He gives you a radical command ... For me, 1969, it was to quit my draft-deferred job and go teach at Faith Academy in the Philippines, a non-existent school. Give up my draft deferment, married with a two-month-old baby, and go to the Philippines. Stupid beyond words, but God was in it, and so here we go. It was life-changing. But make sure it's God talking. Christ-like, scriptural, rout the sinful, wise, rout the stupid.

If God has a command, do it. But if God doesn't have a command, it seems to me if you've done that well, everything that's left is a blessable option. Everything that's left is a blessable option. And so then the fifth thing is, do what will make me most deeply long-term happy. Do what will make me most deeply happy. Choose from among the remaining blessable options, so the blank there is blessable. Choose from among the remaining blessable options and do what will make me most deeply happy.

Now, short-term happy is not the point, but what will make me happy a year from now, or five years from now? And I think that my deepest desires are godly desires. We'll talk about those when we talk about salvation. I think my deepest desires are godly desires. I've got lots of ungodly desires. It's still a part of my person, but I think when I stop and think, then do what we most ... deeply happy, I'll always do the right thing.

So the story that Garry tells, Garry Friesen, and I think is a good one, is Eve in the garden. Brand-new wife. She's got all kinds of possibilities. Trees are everywhere, and she goes up to God and says, "God, I want the most perfect ... I want the center perfect of your will. What shall I make my husband for our very first meal here on your new planet?" And God says, "Of any tree, you may eat freely, but not that one." "Yeah, yeah, I got that. I heard that, God, but I want to know, what is the perfect, best will of God? Which tree, God?" "Any tree of the garden you may freely eat, but not that one."

And Garry tells the story well. How frustrating. Christ-like, scriptural, wise, God's ordination, everything else is a blessable option. So, shall she do cherries, pineapple, mango? Whatever, but not that one. "Any tree." Now, here's the thing. When I choose a blessable option that is blessable, it doesn't mean it's going to work out well. Sometimes I make decisions that are blessable options and I get over there and there's real problems over there that I didn't know about. That doesn't mean it wasn't a blessable option. It just says there's stuff that I didn't know. What I shouldn't do is say, "It's God's fault because He didn't tell me what to do."

But what happens if I make a sinful choice, a non blessable option? Okay, repent, come back. God's welcoming you back. But I think that's a good way to approach the will of God. Will it make me Christ-like? Is it in line with scripture? And a lot of things scripture doesn't speak to, but a lot of things it does in general ideas. Is it wise? But even David went against wise counsel. Has God decreed something? If so, if God has commanded something, do it. And what's left is a blessable option. Choose one. Choose what would make you most deeply happy, and go for it, and then keep doing that. Repeat as necessary. So that's what I think of when I think of will of God.

The decision to have a perfect option, or the fear that God has a will and I will miss it, is absolutely paralyzing. I'll tell you one story. Had a couple come to me. They had a trisomy 18 baby in her womb. Trisomy 18 is a severe genetic abnormality and the baby will not live outside the womb. They had three kids, I think it was, and she was pregnant. Godly couple, and they were trying to think what to do, because of her particular situation to carry this pregnancy to term would've had some serious health risks, and would've probably ended any possibility of future pregnancies for her, and they did want more children.

They sat down with me and I took them through this kind of a thing, and I said, "This is where it is. Does it make me more Christ-like, scriptural, wise," and they passed all of those. The two big options, one is to terminate the pregnancy at this point, because the baby's not going to live anyway. He'd just live a few more months in the womb. But for a woman to shorten the life of a baby, I mean, why? But if they go ahead, there's, in her case, severe health risks to her, and no possibility to have more children. No likely possibility to have more children, and they had to make the choice between the two.

I took her through this and I said ... And we worked through it carefully, and there was medical people involved, and it came down to, let's inquire of God. In their particular circumstance, there's a spot at which they could no longer terminate the pregnancy, and they were near it, and they had an ultrasound scheduled about a week from our consultation. And I said, "Okay, get your prayer team together. You pray and fast. I will join you in praying, and let's pray. God, if you have something to say in this, will You reveal it to this couple? But if you do the ultrasound and the baby's not healed, then we'll take it as that You are not going to heal the baby, and put a wise limit on it." And they did that. And when they did the ultrasound, the baby was not healed. It was clearly still ... The trisomy 18 complications were still there. And at that point, now it's a blessable option whether they terminate the pregnancy or whether they go ahead with the pregnancy. There are negative complications from both of those.

And then I said, "If you want, I'll help you think through that," and they came back and we worked through it. And they came to the conclusion, we believe that overall, of these two bad things, that the better would be to terminate the pregnancy. And before they could get the appointment set, she does what's called a spontaneous abortion, and delivered the child who was dead by the time it arrived. But the decision-making they went through, the biggest thing was, she was so afraid that she'd make the wrong decision and God would punish her forever, that there was a perfect will and she had to find it. I said, "Let's pray with an end point. If God has an opinion, He'll give it to you," and He didn't. Okay, we'll go through the blessable options. So that's an extreme level, but that's the way I approach the will of God.

 

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